Joaquín Moreno is a PE teacher. Last Wednesday he was on a sports pitch in Siete Pilas, in Benalauría, teaching pupils from the Sierra del Espino Rural School. It is one of three branches of this school, which has 80 pupils in total. The others are in Algatocín and Benarrabá.
In Malaga province there are 12 of these rural schools, with 1,236 pupils and 184 teachers. Moreno, a former pupil of Sierra del Espino school, goes from village to village to give classes. "I travel about 30 kilometres a day," he says. "Sometimes you are held up and can't get to the next one on time, but in that case you ring to see if a colleague can go".
At present there are nine pupils in Siete Pilas, with ages ranging from three to 11. Ana Arías says teachers in these school learn to work with all ages at the same time. She is now based at Siete Pilas, but used to travel to Algatocín, Benarrabá, Siete Pilas and Salitre, teaching music. "I can't imagine being in a town, now," she says.
The existence of these rural schools is precarious, due to the problem of depopulation in small country villages. The Salitre branch of the school had to close, because there were no pupils.
With nine, Siete Pilas is considered to be doing well; at one time, the number had dropped to four. However, only two of them live in this district. These schools begin every term with relief, but never sure whether it may be their last.